DANVILLE — Dealing with adversity and struggles is part of the summer baseball experience.

For the first 33 games of the 2019 Prospect League season, it seemed almost like the Danville Dans could do nothing wrong.

But, then came a stretcher where they lost five out of eight, followed another stretch with four losses in five games, including back-to-back shutouts in Quincy.

The Dans lead in the Prospect League's East Division was gone. The Chillicothe Paints were seemingly in the driver's seat to win the title.

On Tuesday night, Danville reverted back to early-season ways, scoring 12 runs — four coming on a grand slam by Gavin Dugas — in a 12-1 triumph over the Terre Haute Rex before 4,102 at Danville Stadium.

The victory was the team's sixth in the past eight games and it allowed the Dans to claim the East Division title based on the head-to-head tiebreaker over Chillicothe (2-0) as both teams finished the 60-game season at 40-20.

"That was fun,'' said Danville manager Eric Coleman, who was drenched twice with the water bucket. "They went ahead 1-0 and our guys answered with 12. That is the character of this club.

"I couldn't be more proud of them for winning the East Division.''

With the title, the Danville Dans will get to host the Chillicothe Paints in a one-game playoff on Thursday. First pitch at Danville Stadium is slated for 6:30 p.m.

"This feels great. We get to see all of the hard work that we put in all year result in something special,'' said Danville pitcher R.J. Kuruts, who has been here since the first game. "It's nice to see our whole team pull together to get this win.''

But, how did the Dans overcome their late-season slump?

"We stayed consistent,'' Kuruts said. "We came here to work hard.

"We didn't slow down when things were going well and we didn't slow down when things didn't go well. Finally that work paid off at the end.''

One of the biggest struggles in the second half of the season for Danville came at the plate.

The Dans were shutout three times in the final 27 games and they scored two or fewer runs in nine of those contests.

"Someone had to step up,'' Coleman said. "We have a 32-man roster and it was the next-man-up mentality. We lost some guys to injuries or they were shut down for the summer. The guys that are here, right now, weathered through it.

"Every team will go through a slump at some point, but the good ones weather through it to win a championship. That's what we did.''

When Coleman talks about battling through a slump, that was never more evident than in Tuesday's game against Terre Haute.

Infielder Gavin Dugas, who came to Danville late in the year from the Cape Cod League, was 0-for-21 in his last six games with the Dans, after going 5-for-15 in his return.

In the six-run fourth inning that allowed the Dans to take the lead for good, Dugas broke out of his slump with a mammoth grand slam to left field.

"That's probably the best way to get out of a slump,'' he said.

But, Dugas said that even his struggles were part of a learning experience.

"It helped me understand how to battle through a struggle when I wasn't injured,'' he said. "I just tried to take all the positives out of the situation and learn from them.''

It's that professional approach that Coleman hopes every player is able to develop during a 60-game summer season.

"He is great kid. He is one of the first ones here every day and one of the last ones to leave,'' Coleman said. "That's why we brought him back. He is going to play professional baseball someday and it was good to see him break out in front of a big crowd.''

Danville pitchers Jack DeCooman, Jackson Kelley, Ricardo Garcia and Kuruts combined to hold Terre Haute to just one run — unearned — on four hits, while striking out 14 and walking just four.

"Down the stretch, we have pitched better and played better defense,'' Coleman said. "Now, we have to protect our house on Thursday and come ready to play.''

The Dans are hoping that a big crowd shows up for the playoff game with the Paints.

"Danville has been great to us and to me all summer,'' said Max Jung-Goldberg, another one of the first-day players for the Dans. "We hope that they come out on Thursday and help us win this playoff game.''


Final score — Danville Dans 12, Terre Haute Rex 1

Key player — Outfielder Sam Crail went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and he scored the game-winning run in the fourth inning

Branch Rickey Cup Standings — Danville 8, Terre Haute 6.

Up next — Danville advances Prospect League's East Division playoff as the Dans will host the Chillicothe Paints in 6:30 p.m. contest on Thursday at Danville Stadium.

Promotion — Two-Buck Thursday. $2 admission, $2 hot dogs, $2 sodas and $2 Busch Lights.

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